Gov. Deval Patrick signed an equal rights bill on Nov. 23 that
protects transgender people from housing, education, employment and
credit discrimination. It also provides additional civil rights and
protection from hate crimes.
Also, before adjourning the formal portion of its session for the
year, the Legislature acted on issues of importance to the bar,
including parole eligibility for repeat violent offenders. Although
formal sessions have concluded, the Legislature will continue to
meet informally before starting formal sessions again in January.
All matters pending at the end of the calendar year will carry over
into the new calendar year.
Patrick signed H.3810, "An Act Relative to Gender Identity," the
day before Thanksgiving, making Massachusetts the 16th state to
treat transgender individuals as a protected class.
"No individual should face discrimination because of who they
are," he said in a press release. "This legislation gives
Massachusetts the necessary tools to stop hate crimes against
transgender people and to treat others fairly. I am proud to sign
Approximately 33,000 transgender individuals live in
Massachusetts, according to the governor's office.
The new law will also increase the state's ability to prosecute
hate crimes against transgender people, "a community that has
historically experienced disproportionate levels of harassment and
violence," Patrick's office said.
The MBA House of Delegates voted to support the legislation in
March 2007 and has advocated for its passage since then. "This law
is necessary because it makes those protections explicit, uniform
and visible to businesses, schools, landlords and the general
public," said MBA President Richard P. Campbell.
Habitual offender legislation
The House and Senate both passed legislation eliminating parole
for repeat violent offenders. However, while the House
focused on habitual offenders, the Senate measure went further and
included some mandatory minimum and school zone changes.
The Senate bill reduces, but does not eliminate mandatory minimum
sentencing laws for some drug offenses. The reduced sentences would
not apply to those currently serving mandatory minimums. The MBA's
2009 Drug Policy Task Force Report documents not only the
unsustainable increases in prison and jail populations - in large
part driven by the mandatory drug sentencing statutes - but also
the need for comprehensive education, treatment, rehabilitation and
parole eligibility reforms. The Senate bill also reduces the school
zone from 1,000 feet to 500 feet, but still carries mandatory
The MBA supports the redrawing of the school zones to 100 feet.
School zones disproportionately affect those in urban communities
and have had no demonstrable effects on prevention.
The two bills now go to a conference committee to reconcile the
differences. Senate President Therese Murray appointed Senators
Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), Steven Baddour (D-Methuen) and Bruce Tarr
(R-Gloucester) to the conference committee. The House has not yet
named conferees. A conference committee compromise is not likely
until the new year.
Uniform Trust Code
The Legislature adjourned before passing two bills of interest
to the probate bar. Both the Uniform Trust Code and the Uniform
Probate Code Technical Corrections remain on the move, but
not enacted before formal sessions concluded. The MBA will continue
to push for passage of both bills as the effective date of the
Uniform Probate Code is Jan. 2, 2012